EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 08: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons walks oof of the field dejected after the New York Giants won 24-2 during their NFC Wild Card Playoff game at MetLife Stadium on January 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The Falcons, as I noted the other day, have their fair share of issues in short yardage situations. Unfortunately, that's true for third down, which is normally a fun down for the Falcons.
Matt Ryan has quietly been a mighty effective quarterback on third down in his career, earning accolades from Pro Football Focus in 2010 as the quarterback who did the best job of squeezing positive plays out of those situations. Mind you, we're talking about the entire NFL here, including Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and the loathsome Drew Brees. He was really good.
Now, while it's not an apples to oranges comparison, Ryan's completion percentage on third down did drop a bit in 2011, especially during the brutal stretch early in the season when it seemed like the line couldn't protect him worth a damn.
But I firmly believe that this will be one of the team's strengths in 2012, and it comes down to a simple belief in talent. The Falcons have three wide receivers capable of making noise, one of the best tight ends ever to play the game and a couple of options out of the backfield. They have a line that should at least marginally improve. And barring something stunning, Ryan will be as good or better than he was a year ago. Put all those factors together, plus the new and hopefully improved offensive coordinator, and it's hard to believe this could be worse.
Thriving on long third downs is huge. It demoralizes defenses, motivates the offense and keeps drives alive. With the suite of weapons at his disposal, Ryan ought to be able to capitalize on that in the same way he did in 2010.
Do you agree?